NEWS: Simon Robert Gibson releases debut solo album

A well-known figure in the Sydney music scene, Simon is best known as a drummer with his musical outings stretching way back to the thriving indie-rock years of the Sydney music scene of the ‘90s.

A founding member of the much-loved Disneyfist and later Modern Giant, Simon was also an original member of the acclaimed Aerial Maps, along with his brother Adam Gibson.

Along the way Simon has played and recorded with many Australian bands, with long stints in legendary Half A Cow Records soul/popsters, Sneeze, plus Lazy Susan, the Simon Holmes-led outfit, Fragile, and his own later ensemble, The Coolites.

With a love of travel, surfing and adventure, Simon’s life has taken him down many a dusty road and to many a backstreet bar. This restless spirit saw him settle in Vietnam for almost a decade, a location where he found a home and where he played an instrumental role in a burgeoning rock scene whilst also working as a high school teacher and writing songs for a number of local bands. The majority of songs written in that period eventually ended up on the three releases for his surf-rock band The Coolites.

The next adventure was a move to Bali to follow his other life-long passion, surfing, a location which in turn led to a whole swathe of new songs …

The Great Ongoing, out now via Bandcamp, feels like a musical memoir, both in the words Gibson sings and the music in which he places them. These are top-shelf indie guitar songs, of both the freewheeling and introspective kind. Jangling guitars chime and occasionally bristle amid warm and wistful melodies. Horns and keyboards add a depth of sound and frame the songs in a way that recalls the melancholic poeticism of Australia’s finest – The Go-Betweens and the Triffids.

‘Now Often Feels Like Then’ casts an eye back over youthful experiences and endeavours, odes are sung to heroes such as Joe Strummer and Anthony Bourdain and day-to-day objects such as battered books, coffee & wine, motel signs and summer streets are littered throughout Gibson’s descriptive songs. The voices of his fellow musicians, Alannah Russack in particular, act as echoes and memories – an additional layer of sonic nostalgia.


“It’s really my one and only proper break-up song,” says Gibson. “I spoke most of the lyrics on my phone recorder just after things fell apart but I couldn’t face writing it until three months had passed. I found some Polaroid photos in a drawer that made me sit down and transcribe the bits on the phone and then write it. Even after I wrote it, I never played it,” he reveals. “I couldn’t face it for about another year…”
Simon Robert Gibson on the single ‘Three Months’


When pressed on the album’s themes, Gibson is quick to sum it up as his perspective on the important things in life. “I guess just the idea of staying positive, to keep moving, stay creative, surf, value friendships, accept that things change and enjoy the new whilst being proud of your past. Honour your own history and use it to build the future.”

Converting that positivity into something personal and creative is something that Gibson has wanted to bring to fruition via his own unique musical lens, for a while now. “People always saw me as a drummer, which is great, I love the drums, but I didn’t want to be just that. I wanted to use all those incredible experiences I’ve had through playing with so many awesome people and build something new from them.”

“I’ve been lucky enough to play with some of my favourite songwriters ever,” Gibson enthuses. “Tom Morgan, Nic Dalton, Simon Holmes, Alannah Russack, Pete Fenton, Paul Andrews, my brother Adam Gibson and a bunch more, I’ve always been a fan as much as a musician, and the time just felt right to make a statement under my own name. I love authenticity, things from the heart, songs that elevate day-to-day life to something more, and this bunch of songs seemed to have those things, and so I thought it was time to send them out in to the world.”

“I’ve had an incredible life to this point and I see the album as a bunch of snapshots of different aspects of my life that somehow come together and give some version of the whole. As my mum always said, “you’re a long time dead”, so you might as well do cool stuff when you have the chance!”

ALBUM REVIEW: Jessica – The Space Between

JESSICA

THE SPACE BETWEEN

INDEPENDENT (via Bandcamp)

One half of folk-noir duo Jep and Dep (also featuring Darren Cross of Gerling), Jessica’s debut album takes the sound forged from that musical partnership and crafts it into her own ethereal and immersive world. Cross is still on hand as producer and engineer but it’s clear from the outset that this is Jessica’s singular and personal vision.

Devoid of drums, the eleven songs drift and creep along like mist on a moor. Heavily draped in resonant reverb that creates an ambient, cathedral-like atmosphere, the billowing vapour trails hanging heavy in the air, shrouding her songs that explore the themes of death, loss and memory – formed from her experience as a survivor of a mass shooting in Strathfield, NSW when she was seven.

There’s a half-grasped memory quality to many of the songs, buried in a hypnagogic haze, while others such as ‘Womb Tomb’ are lifted skyward and ‘Has It Come To This’ has the DNA of a classic torch song.

Vocally, Beth Gibbons (Portishead), Elizabeth Fraser (Cocteau Twins) and Aldous Harding’s early work are clear influences on the way Jessica hauntingly layers her voice. By playing electric guitar, she avoids straight folk and creates more emotionally visceral textures, bringing to mind PJ Harvey and the more elegiac playing of Mick Turner (Dirty Three). Time and the listener’s full attention are essential to fully appreciating the depth and expansive beauty of The Space Between.

Chris Familton

ALBUM REVIEW: Darren Cross – Keeping Up?

Darren Cross returns with a new album called Keeping Up? In recent years he’s explored folk noir with Jep and Dep, his own eclectic solo albums and a pair of instrumental acoustic folk albums under the moniker D.C Cross.

Here he orbits planet Gerling closer than he has since the band split back in in the late 00s. It’s still a totally different musical creature but the synthetic/humanistic/subtly anarchic blend that band explored at times is still rippling through Cross’ DNA.

There’s a cosmic nostalgia at play. Dreamy, fragmentary and hypnagogic in the feelings it portrays and the visage it conjures up, this is Kraftwerk disconnected from their machines and cast into an interstellar dream state. Hi-brow, lo-fi – allowing the machines to wonder and reflect. There’s a sense of suspended reality, a remove from the chaos of reality, pressing pause on the VCR, cleaning the hard drive, looking for a way to process and cope with the avalanche of data we consume and are unwittingly fed with each day.

Drum machines are treated like arhythmic heartbeats, lazily loping along with a melancholic funk in their step. Synths wash and cascade like ultra slo-mo and woozy waterfalls. There’s an overwhelmingly immersive quality to the music. Drug-like, womb-like – that intrinsic memory of holding your breath underwater as a child and feeling at peace in the aquatic cocoon.

Keeping Up? is a battle for optimism in the face of decreasing digital odds. It’s a non-smoking area for mental health and a dystopian glance back at the malaise of the industrial age.

NEW MUSIC: Sprints – Drones

There’e an insistent and completely hypnotic twitch and neck snap to this track from Irish post-punk group Sprints. The tension is briefly alleviated with burst of distorted guitar before the declamatory vocal of Karla Chubb resumes her megaphone stance centre stage. Like New Zealand trio Wax Chattels, Sprints revel and excel in a mix of monolithic precision and sonic chaos theory and it works beautifully.

Speaking of ‘Drones’, she says:

“Drones is very literally about my struggles with imposter syndrome. I think being a female in music, I struggle a lot with feeling like I have something to prove. It’s not okay for me to just be good, I have to be great. I have to prove constantly why I am deserving to be on the stage, or holding that guitar or that microphone. That pressure can be very difficult to deal with, and I think a lot of the times you doubt yourself then, am I actually able to write? Or is this all shit? Drones is about my experiences with dealing with this pressure, but realising that a lot of people have these struggles. The bars fill, the car parks fill, life seems to go on and on, and we can become so focused internally on our issues that you don’t realise that maybe while I was wishing I was someone else, they’re also wishing the same thing.”

There’s an EP coming shortly, hit up Spotify to hear two other singles.

NEW MUSIC: The Finalists – Learn To Live Without You

Sydney quartet The Finalists have released two singles ahead of the release of their debut album First tomorrow, on the Half A Cow label.

The Finalists’ debut single, ‘Ignore All The Hate (On Your Telephone)‘, a featured single of the week on 2SER 107.3FM, was an understated slice of melodic melancholia, draped in acoustic and electric guitars that sparkled and gently jangled. In contrast, ‘Learn To Live Without You, a concise and infectious, garage and jangle-pop guitar nugget, harks back to the golden age of the two and half minute pop song.

The song bursts into view on the back of a psychedelic intro before the drums strike a declamatory beat and 6 & 12-string guitars strum and chime in unison as Mark Tobin paints an optimistic picture of a broken relationship. The Beatles, R.E.M. and The Byrds in the Paisley Underground.

Tobin wrote most of this song in one afternoon on a 12-string acoustic guitar but as he explains, the song really came alive once they started playing it as a band. “The more we played it, the more psychedelic it became. We shamelessly channelled our heroes, The Beatles and The Byrds, and covered the song with 12-string guitars, Ringo style drums and harmonies. This song, like many others, is about the impermanence of relationships, and the realisation that sometimes there is nothing you can do to prevent an imminent painful loss.”

With a sound that draws on the group’s collective music history playing in a number of bands in Sydney, Australia and Auckland, New Zealand, they’ve concocted a blend of jangly guitar-based indie rock, with elements of psych-rock, shoegaze and post-punk threading through their debut album. 

You can hear the ghosts of Factory and Flying Nun Records, the evocative strains of The Go-Betweens and The Smiths and other Antipodean contemporaries such as Underground Lovers, Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever and RVG. 

First will be out via Bandcamp on Friday Nov 6th.

full disclosure – Chris Familton of Doubtful Sounds plays bass in The Finalists

NEW MUSIC: Total Rubbish – Honey Ryder

Straight out of the gate this one hits you with its widescreens wall of guitars that phaser and shimmer like a slow motion glitter explosion. Total Rubbish is an all-female trio from Philadelphia who claim they’re inspired by disappointing relationships, new beginnings, odd-end jobs, and their Chicago & California garage rock roots. You can hear everyone from L7 to The Primitives, Veruca Salt to The Dandy Warhols in their bittersweet, heavy-haze grooves.

Total Rubbish are signed to Born Losers Records and are planning to release a debut EP, Triple Negative on November 20th.

Bre Steinfeldt on Bass

Cass Nguyen on Guitar

Kiki Schiller on drums

NEW MUSIC: Wilding – Swipe Right

Cosmic psych pop is the order of the day on this new track from Melbourne artist Wilding. He’s got a brand new album called The Death Of Foley’s Mall out now on Half A Cow Records and ‘Swipe Right‘ is one of a series of character-study songs Wilding wrote about people who live in his neighbourhood of Coburg, Victoria.

This single has a a brilliant build and momentum through it and guitar and synth layers that fold in and on top of the track. Fizzing melodies and an infectious thread run through the song, recalling British acts like Blur and Supergrass. There’s also a jerky undercurrent that brings to mind Talking Heads.

The Death Of Foley’s Mall is out now.